June 20, 2014

Manchin Wishes West Virginia a Happy 151st Birthday

Washington, D.C. – On the eve of West Virginia Day, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) delivered remarks on the Senate floor to honor the great state of West Virginia by wishing the state a happy 151st birthday. He encouraged all West Virginians to celebrate West Virginia’s fascinating history, rich culture, strong traditions along with the kind and compassionate people who call the Mountain State their home.

To watch a YouTube video of Senator Manchin’s Senate floor remarks, please click here.
To listen to audio of Senator Manchin’s Senate floor remarks, please click here:

To read Senator Manchin’s remarks as prepared for delivery, please see text below.

M. President, I rise today to honor my great state. Tomorrow marks West Virginia’s 151st birthday – a day that truly embodies a brave and daring declaration of statehood that is unprecedented in American history.

Born out of the fiery battles of the Civil War, West Virginia was founded by patriots who were willing to risk their lives in a united pursuit of justice and freedom for all.

And since that day 151 years ago, on June 20, 1863 – when our state officially became the 35th state admitted into the Union – West Virginia’s rich culture and strong traditions grew.

That year, the Great Seal of the state of West Virginia was adopted—depicting who we are as a people and as a culture. With our birth date’s inscription forever engraved in its center, the seal features a boulder with two crossed rifles and a liberty cap to express our state’s importance of fighting for liberty and justice.

On either side of the boulder stand two men: on the left, a farmer stands with an ax and a plow to represent agriculture, and on the right, a miner stands with a pickax and a sledge hammer to represent industry.

Finally, along the outer ring carves the text “State of West Virginia” and “Montani Semper Liberi,” translating to Mountaineers are Always Free.

That Great Seal of West Virginia, designed in 1863 during America’s bloody civil war, leaves a lasting imprint of who we are as the people of West Virginia.

Just like the farmer and miner on our seal, we cannot forget the countless others who fought for our freedom and embarked on our state’s improbable journey to independence from Virginia and to our very own place in the Union — a land of the free and home of the brave.

Those pivotal figures climbed over mountains, crossed raging rivers, tussled through thick forests, and fought against bondage and oppression to be free. Their resilience succeeded. And because of their bravery and patriotism, the Mountaineers are always free.

M. President, ever since our historic beginning, we, the people of West Virginia, have never failed to answer our country’s call.

Ever since we chose the Stars and Stripes and chose to live under a Constitution that promised the constant pursuit of “a more perfect union” of states, no demand has been too great, no danger has been too daunting, and no trial has been too threatening.

Our state’s abundance of natural resources coupled with the hard work and sacrifice of our people have made America stronger and safer.

Since our birth, we have mined the coal that fueled the Industrial Revolution, powered our railroads across the continental United States, and produced the steel that built our ships and armed our soldiers in conflicts around the world.

To this day, West Virginians continue to generate the electricity that lights our cities, heats our homes and powers our businesses. 

We have also filled the ranks of our military forces in numbers far greater than should be expected of our little state.

Today, West Virginia’s population holds one of the highest percentages of veterans among all states.

Like I always say – West Virginia is one of the most patriotic states in the country. We always have and we always will be.

The best steel comes from the hottest fire, and the fires of the Civil War transformed us. We forever branded ourselves to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution — and as the Mountaineers who will always be free.

We are tough, independent, inventive and honest. Our character has been shaped by the wilderness of our state – its welcoming mountains, countless hollers, rushing streams, boundless blue skies, and dense green forests.

West Virginia is a place of coal mines and soaring eagles, Boy Scouts and community leaders, sparkling lakes and captivating mountains, winding backcountry and smoky barbecue joints, battlefields and hidden trails, college towns and small towns.

West Virginia is a place of power, pulse and passion – a special place we call home.

And yes – we’ve had our ups and downs, our setbacks and triumphs. Famous family feuds, neighborly fights, timely trials, and unexpected challenges have been thrown our way. But the spirit of West Virginia has never been broken.  And it never will. I learned that a long time ago, growing up in a small coalmining town of hardworking men and women.

When things get tough, we get tougher.

M. President, tomorrow, as people across West Virginia celebrate West Virginia’s 151st birthday, a day that we now also know as West Virginia Day, I encourage all West Virginians to remember who we are. I encourage us all to remember the first mountaineers, and the brave leaders and strong laborers who paved the way for us and for future generations.

We have so many reasons to be proud of our beautiful state, its kind and compassionate people, powerful landscapes, unique customs, rich culture and fascinating history.

Every West Virginian contributes to our state’s amazing story, and on West Virginia day, I encourage all West Virginians to seize this opportunity to imagine the future of this great state – and this nation – and be proud of how far we’ve come and how far we will go.

M. President, we are West Virginians. Even in the darkness and the gloom, we look to a just God who directs the storm.

And like the brave, loyal patriots who made West Virginia the 35th star on Old Glory, West Virginians’ love of God and country and family and state remain unshakeable. And that is well worth celebrating every year.